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COVID-19 Crisis Boosts Progressive Values Amidst Growing Pessimism – International Panel Survey

Posted February 24, 2021

A unique panel survey conducted in 24 countries by Professor Ronald Inglehart, Founding President of the World Values Survey Association and Martijn Lampert, Co-founder and Research Director of research agency Glocalities reveals the dual impact that the COVID-19 crisis has on values, emotions and the economy.

In total 8,761 respondents from 24 countries were interviewed twice. First, just before the pandemic hit most countries early in 2020 and again in November 2020. This is the first study of its kind, measuring trends among the same people at such a large international scale. Four decades of research by Professor Ronald Inglehart show that usually crises make people more authoritarian and xenophobic, but in the unique case of the global COVID-19 pandemic with lockdowns and freedom restrictions the effects are very different.


  1. The COVID-19 crisis leads to a boost in progressive values and ideals with increasing calls for equality, tolerance, rising community spirit and an increasing focus on emancipation and self determination. These historically remarkable effects of the COVID-19 crisis are a result of the strict lockdowns, social isolation and the unprecedented restrictions in freedom of movement. People re-evaluate their priorities in life. Freedoms and liberties have become scarce and as a result progressive values are on the rise while patriarchy and a focus on law and order have gone down. People internationally are calling for inclusive growth and for reducing the gap between rich and the poor.
  2. Levels of pessimism, fear and hostility are rising while positive emotions and hedonism have gone down. The pandemic has come as an emotional shock to many. People feel let down by society with diminishing future prospects. This trend is visible in all generations, and especially among young adults who have become less obedient to authority with increasingly urgent worries about income inequality, unemployment, finances and their futures. Life has gotten worse in many areas, including mental and physical health, joy of living, finances, social life, work life, personal life and trust in humanity. As a result of the COVID-19 crisis people increasingly focus on health, vitality and taking precautions.

The study was conducted in the following countries: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, UK, USA, and Vietnam.


The results show that young adults (18-35) have been most severely hit by the pandemic, showing deteriorating mental health, increasing pessimism, hostility, and worries about unemployment and the economy. Young people– even more than older ones– increasingly call for more income equality. This reflects the fact that they face an increasingly bleak reality. Not only are the prospects dismal for anyone now entering the job market, but the long-term outlook is degenerating because advanced knowledge societies increasingly have winner-takes-all economies. In recent decades, the economies of these societies have grown impressively, but the gains have gone almost entirely to the top 30 percent, then to the top 20 percent, then to the top 10 percent and increasingly to the top one percent. If left to market forces, this trend will continue—unless governments intervene with policies that allocate some of the growing resources to creating jobs that benefit society as a whole, in health care, education, environmental protection, infrastructure and research and development. With gradually spreading awareness of this problem, the trend survey shows that young adults are becoming less respectful of authority in general, with decreasing acceptance of patriarchal authority.


The growing emphasis in the population on inclusive economic growth reflects the fact that we are moving into a new phase of economic development– Artificial Intelligence Society—that has a winner-takes-all economy. This produces increasingly high levels of inequality for two reasons:

  1. Industrial society produces material products that are expensive to produce and distribute, creating niches for a wide range of products ranging from very cheap to very expensive. But once you have produced a knowledge product, it costs almost nothing to duplicate and distribute. There is no reason to buy anything but the top product, which takes over the entire market, generating huge profits—but only for the top product.
  2. Inequality becomes even more extreme because virtually anyone’s job can be replaced by computer programs, making it possible to squeeze the workforce and funnel economic gains even more narrowly to the very top.

In the survey report (attached) each of the trends is described in detail. Also comparisons are made of trends among age categories and in advanced and developing economies.

Survey methodology

The first round of fieldwork in 24 countries was conducted online between 23 January 2020 and 11 March 2020 and the second round of fieldwork was held between October 26 and November 16. The samples in 23 countries were provided by international fieldwork provider Dynata and the sample in the Netherlands was provided by Stempunt (the research panel of Motivaction, the Dutch sister company of Glocalities). The panel survey was conducted in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, UK, USA, and Vietnam.

In total 8,761 respondents participated twice in the recontact survey. Prior to the data collection quotas for age, education, gender and region were set up, according to the most recent Census data for each country. The samples are weighted according to census data for age, gender, region and education. The within-subject design of the study allowed us to test for significant trends using a paired samples T-test. The answers of individual respondents in Q1 were compared to their answers in Q4 of 2020, giving us insight in individual shifts in attitudes, emotions and values. The recontact panel study setup is a significantly more robust methodology for tracking changes than comparing the results of two independent representative samples, as most trend studies do. When comparing the results from surveys of different collections of people, it is necessary to allow a substantial margin for sampling error. With the present study, sampling effects (including sampling errors) do not exist, since we are interviewing the same individuals at two points in time using the same method: any change that is found, is genuine.